Desmond Sim



Desmond Sim Kim Jin (b. 1961, Singapore–) is a playwright, poet, short-story writer and painter. He is best known for his short stories and plays that he has penned and staged.His accomplishments include winning the Singapore Literature Prize for Poetry (Merit) for his collection of poems Places Where I’ve Been (1993); his double victory at the NUS/Shell Short Play Competition for Storyteller and Red Man, Green Man in 1990; winning the first Hewlett-Packard/Action Theatre 10-minute Play Contest with Drunken Prawns in 1993; and winning the Best Original Script award at the 2002 DBS Life! Theatre Awards with Autumn Tomyam.2 

Sim’s wide-ranging portfolio includes his work for Singapore Airport Terminal Services,3 his role as playwright for TheatreWorks, and teaching duties at Temasek Polytechnic’s School of Design as well as Lasalle College of the Arts. He was also the executive creative director for Green House Design & Communications.4 He has held the position of associate artistic director at Action Theatre and runs Action Theatre’s Singapore Theatre Oasis, an incubator programme for new and existing Singaporean playwrights.5

Education and career 
Sim was educated at St Gabriel’s School, National Junior College and the National University of Singapore (NUS). He won a place in Japan Airline’s summer session scholarship at Sophia University to study Japanese theatre and art history in 1985. Later, he earned his Master of Arts in literature at NUS.6 In 1990, he helped set up the Writers’ Laboratory for TheatreWorks, and was its first writer-in-residence when the programme was launched in 1991.7 In the same year, he was awarded a three-month scholarship to the Fulbright Professional Programme, to study and participate in theatres across the United States (namely New York, Kentucky, Montana and Seattle). From 1991 to August 2002, Sim was the executive creative director of Green House Design & Communications, an e-commerce design, marketing and communications firm. He currently runs a consultant company, Desmond Sim & Co. Pte Ltd.8


Poetry
Sim has been an active creative writer since young and his poems have been read out on Radio and Television Singapore.9 He has won top prizes in national competitions for writing and poetry.10 In 1989, he bagged the second prize in the national short story writing competition organised by the National Book Development Council of Singapore.11 In 1993, he won the Singapore Literature Prize Merit Award (Poetry) for his entry, Places Where I’ve Been, a collection of 62 poems about real and figurative journeys drawn or inspired by his travels and personal experiences.12


Sim was commissioned by the President’s Office to write a commemorative poem at a concert to launch the President’s Challenge, an annual charity event to raise awareness of volunteerism and funds for the needy. At the launch concert in June 2003, which was staged by Wild Rice in the Jubilee Hall of Raffles Hotel, then President S.R. Nathan recited Sim’s poem, “I Hope”.13

Playwriting

After winning the top two prizes in the NUS/Shell short play competition for Red Man, Green Man and Storyteller, Sim went on to writing plays on a big scale.14 Some of his works have won awards and many have been selected for production.15 The following are some of his plays that have been staged:
1992: Blood and Snow by TheatreWorks.16
1993: Sammy Won’t Go To School by TheatreWorks17 / Elizabeth By Night by Actors’ Theatre of Louisville, USA.18
1994: Drunken Prawns and Other Edible Delights by Action Theatre19 / A Singapore Carol by Singapore Repertory Theatre20 / The Durian Man and His Daughters by Action Theatre.21
1995: Corporate Animals by Action Theatre in collaboration with Ekachai Uekrongtham (director) and Ken Low (music and songs)22 / Teochew Porridge by Action Theatre.23
1996: Who’s Afraid of Chow Yuen Fatt? by WOW International.24
1998: Drift by TheatreWorks.25
1999: Shrimps In Space by Empire M+C26 / The Swimming Instructor by Action Theatre.27
2000: The Swimming Instructor by Action Theatre.28
2002: Autumn Tomyam by Action Theatre29 / MRT by Action Theatre / The Chair by Peranakan Association.30
2003: Beautiful Boxer (screenplay), co-written with Ekachai Uekrongtham, by GMM Grammy, Thailand.31
2004: Hubbies4hire by Action Theatre.32
2006: Jack and The Beansprout by Wild Rice.33
2007: Postcards from Rosa by Action Theatre.34
2009: Manhood by Action Theatre35 / Wife # 11 by Action Theatre36 / The Wedding Game (screenplay), co-written with Dennis Chew and Ekachai Uekrongtham.37
2010: Past Perfect, Future Tense by KL Performing Arts Centre38 / Perfecting Prata by Action Theatre.39
2011: Food, Sex & Death, co-written with Nandang Abdul Rahman, by The Actors Studio and The Arts House.40
2014: A Wetlands Adventure by A Nation In Concert.41
2015: Pintu Pagar by Peranakan Arts Festival.42

Besides having his works produced or staged, Sim has also accomplished much in dramatic writing.43 These include:

1989: Merit prize, Shell-NUS Short Play Competition for Old Woman’s Dying, Old Woman’s Dead44 / Second prize, National Short Story Writing Competition.45
1990: First person to win both the first and second prizes (for Red Man, Green Man and Storyteller respectively) in the National Short Story Writing Competition.46
1991:
 First writer-in-residence for TheatreWorks’s new writers’ laboratory.47

1993: First Asian and first Singaporean to have a 10-minute play produced in the United States, at the Actors’ Theatre of Louisville (established in 1977) / First prize in the first Hewlett Packard/Action Theatre 10-minute Play Contest for Drunken Prawns.48
2002: Play of the Year in the DBS Life! Theatre Awards for his play Autumn Tomyam by Action Theatre.49


Painting
Sim is also an accomplished painter.50 He held joint painting exhibitions in 1993 and 1995, and solo painting exhibitions such as “Sayang” (2004),51Nativity Nyonyas and Other Uncommon Icons” (2004), “Plenty: A Show of Abundance” (2006) and “Senang Peranakan” (2007).52 His paintings are influenced by European painters such as Modigliani, Chagall, and the naïve painters. He also attributes his paintings to his Peranakan heritage, his memories as well as his own observations of local life.53




Author

Chan Fook Weng




References
1. Desmond Sim. (2011). Literary Singapore. Retrieved 2016, November 3 from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/dam/jcr:8f7cbf08-a0e8-41d1-a108-7edaeec7043a; National University of Singapore. (2015). About the artist. Retrieved 2016, November 4 from National University of Singapore website: http://www.nus.edu.sg/cfa/NAF_2015/artist-bios-t-chair.html; Jacques, R. F. (2004, February 7). Entertainment guide. The Business Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Sim’s first achievement for poetry. (1993, December 18). The Straits Times, p. 6; Koh, B. S. (1991, February 15). Double first for dramatistThe Straits Times, p. 14; Pandian, H. (1993, December 7). Desmond scores double firstThe Straits Times, p. 11; Ong, S. F. (2002, May 23). Winning action. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Sim, D. (2013). Student plays. Singapore: Epigram Books, p. viii. (Call no.: RSING S822 SIM)
3. Ng, W. C., & Henson, B. (1988, January 11). The pen is mightier than the computer. The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Nayar, P. (2001, August 4). Sim-ply writingThe Business Times, p. 16; Yap, S. (2006, December 24). Bookends. The Straits Times, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Green House Design + Communications. (n.d.). Our story. Retrieved 2016, November 28 from Green House Design + Communications website: http://www.greenhousedc.com/about-us-our-story.htm; Centre42. (2016). Video: Koh Boon Pin in the Living Room with Desmond Sim. Retrieved 2016, November 29 from Centre42 website: http://centre42.sg/lr4-video-desmond-sim/
5. National University of Singapore. (2015). About the artist. Retrieved 2016, November 4 from National University of Singapore website: http://www.nus.edu.sg/cfa/NAF_2015/artist-bios-t-chair.html 
6. Yap, S. (2006, December 24). Bookends. The Straits Times, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; National University of Singapore. (2015). About the artist. Retrieved 2016, November 4 from National University of Singapore website: http://www.nus.edu.sg/cfa/NAF_2015/artist-bios-t-chair.html 
7. Arts scene gets boost with labs for playwrights. (1990, October 10). The Straits Times, p. 22; 12 writers off to ‘play school’. (1991, February 27). The Straits Times, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. National University of Singapore. (2015). About the artist. Retrieved 2016, November 4 from National University of Singapore website: http://www.nus.edu.sg/cfa/NAF_2015/artist-bios-t-chair.html; Centre42. (2016). In the living room: Koh Boon Pin chats with Russell Heng and Desmond Sim. Retrieved 2016, November 29 from Centre42 website: http://centre42.sg/in-the-living-room-koh-boon-pin-chats-with-russell-heng-and-desmond-sim/
9. Centre42. (2016). Video: Koh Boon Pin in the Living Room with Desmond Sim. Retrieved 2016, November 29 from Centre42 website: http://centre42.sg/lr4-video-desmond-sim/
10. Desmond Sim. (2011). Literary Singapore. Retrieved 2016, November 3 from National Art Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/dam/jcr:8f7cbf08-a0e8-41d1-a108-7edaeec7043a; National University of Singapore. (2015). About the artist. Retrieved 2016, November 4 from National University of Singapore website: http://www.nus.edu.sg/cfa/NAF_2015/artist-bios-t-chair.html
11. No first prize winners in two categories of short story contest. (1989, November 19). The Straits Times, p. 27. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. National Book Development Council of Singapore. (2016). Singapore Literature Prize. Retrieved 2016, November 3 from National Book Development Council of Singapore website: http://bookcouncil.sg/awards/singapore-literature-prize; Sim’s first achievement for poetry. (1993, December 18). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. President recites a poem of hope. (2003, June 18). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Koh, B. S. (1991, February 15). Double first for dramatistThe Straits Times, p. 14; Nayar, P. (2001, August 4). Sim-ply writingThe Business Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
15. Nayar, P. (2001, August 4). Sim-ply writingThe Business Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
16. Young playwrights’ works to watch out for. (1992, March 21). The Straits Times, p. 29. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Performances. (1993, May 1). The Business Times, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Pandian, H. (1993, December 7). Desmond scores double firstThe Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
19. Tsang, S. (1994, July 27). Plays provide food for thoughts. The Business Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Phang, M. Y. (1994, December 2). A S’pore Carol most costly non-musical production here so far. The Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Sim, D. (2013). Student plays. Singapore: Epigram Books, p. 215. (Call no.: RSING S822 SIM)
22. Koh, B. P. (1995, May 13). 10-min ‘squeeze’ plays are back. The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Koh, B. P. (1995, November 20). Two plays, with flavours tangy, sweet and sharp. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Tsang, S. (1996, June 25). Played out like a TV mystery, with some clever staging. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. National University of Singapore. (2015). About the artist. Retrieved 2016, November 4 from National University of Singapore website: http://www.nus.edu.sg/cfa/NAF_2015/artist-bios-t-chair.html
26. Sim, D. (2013). Student plays. Singapore: Epigram Books, p. 93. (Call no.: RSING S822 SIM)
27. Spotlight. (1999, November 20). The Business Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Oon, C. (2000, April 25). Theatre. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Nayar, P. (2001, August 4). Sim-ply writingThe Business Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
30. Sim, D. (2013). Student plays. Singapore: Epigram Books, pp. 25, 59. (Call no.: RSING S822 SIM)
31. Hong, X. Y. (2003, June 26). Blushes & bruises are Beautiful. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Ho, V. (2004, October 26). Evening out with hubby. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. National University of Singapore. (2015). About the artist. Retrieved 2016, November 4 from National University of Singapore website: http://www.nus.edu.sg/cfa/NAF_2015/artist-bios-t-chair.html
34. Mayo, M. (2007, November 20). Postcards from Rosa: A leceh play lovingly done. Today, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35. De Guzman, A. (2009, September 18). Pretty tight package on masculinity. The Business Times, p. 27. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
36. De Guzman, A. (2009, February 13). An expression of the language and mind. The Business Times, p. 27. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
37. Chan, B. (2009, February 3). Wedding off to great start. The Straits Times, p. 42. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
38. National University of Singapore. (2015). About the artist. Retrieved 2016, November 4 from National University of Singapore website: http://www.nus.edu.sg/cfa/NAF_2015/artist-bios-t-chair.html
39. Martin, M. (2010, March 18). Act 1, Scene 1, time to burp! Today, p. 59. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
40. On the ties that blind. (2011, August 5). The Business Times, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
41. A Nation in Concert. (2014). A nation in concert 2014: A wetlands adventure. Retrieved 2016, November 3 from A Nation in Concert website: http://www.anationinconcert.com
42. New Peranakan arts fest announced: Five-day event includes two new plays and a Baba Nyonya convention. (2015, July 10). Today, p. 14. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
43. Koh, B. S. (1991, February 15). Double first for dramatistThe Straits Times, p. 14; Pandian, H. (1993, December 7). Desmond scores double firstThe Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Desmond Sim. (2011). Literary Singapore. Retrieved 2016, November 3 from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/dam/jcr:8f7cbf08-a0e8-41d1-a108-7edaeec7043a
44. Your guide to today’s action. (1990, June 6). The New Paper, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
45. No first prize winners in two categories of short story contest. (1989, November 19). The Straits Times, p. 27. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
46. Koh, B. S. (1991, February 15). Double first for dramatistThe Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
47. 12 writers off to ‘play school’. (1991, February 27). The Straits Times, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
48. Pandian, H. (1993, December 7). Desmond scores double firstThe Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
49. Ong, S. F. (2002, May 23). Winning action. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
50. National University of Singapore. (2015). About the artist. Retrieved 2016, November 4 from National University of Singapore website: http://www.nus.edu.sg/cfa/NAF_2015/artist-bios-t-chair.html
51. At The Substation. (1993, November 27). The Straits Times, p. 29; Narayanan, P. N. (1995, October 14). A profitable line. The Straits Times, p. 17; Jacques, R. F. (2004, February 7). Entertainment guide. The Business Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
52. Art. (2004, November 22). The Straits Times, p. 8; Arts. (2006, January 23). The Straits Times, p. 8; [Untitled]. (2007, May 21). The Straits Times, p. 50. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
53. Yap, S. (2006, November 20). Portrait of the artist as a Peranakan. The Straits Times, p. 5; Seah, L. (2004, February 8). Arty Baba. The Straits Times, p. 7; Jacques, R. F. (2004, February 7). Entertainment guide. The Business Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



Further resources
Sim, D. (2002). A different sun. Singapore: KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

(Call no.: RSING 821.92 SIM-[SRN])

Sim, D. (1993). Places where I’ve been. Singapore: EPB Publishers.
(Call no.: RSING S821 SIM)

Sim, D. (2013). Six plays. Singapore: Epigram Books.
(Call no.: RSING S822 SIM)

Sim, D., Yu, O., & Loh, K. (1990). Mistress and other creative takeoffs. Singapore: Landmark Books.
(Call no.: RSING 823.01 SIM)



The information in this article is valid as at 2009 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Writers
Language and literature>>Drama
Poets--Biography
Painters--Singapore--Biography
Award winners--Singapore--Biography
Language and literature>>Poetry
Sim, Desmond, 1961-
Personalities>>Biographies>>Authors
Authors, Singaporean--Biography